In preparation for a photo shoot in ‘Spectre’, the old Big Fish set on a private island in Jackson Lake AL, I was scouring the local thrift stores over the weekend for some interesting props. My son decided he wanted to come along, and while browsing he came across a table on which he found an old fax machine. ‘What is THIS?’ he asked. For a moment I was transported back in time to the last half of the 80’s, when I was working my first real job as an admin assistant in a travel agency in downtown Brisbane. It was a time when I spent an hour in the bathroom to tease and spray my hair, catch the bus into the city to go to work, wore stacked silver charm bracelets, and wore Taboo perfume. When I returned to the moment he was rummaging around in the used cameras, a large assortment of various point and shooters which I like to call ‘happy snap’ cameras. ‘Check this out,’ he said and held up a small purple instamatic camera for me to see, then began inspecting it more closely. My own eye, however, was drawn to something else. Was that an SLR? I picked up the camera that was almost lost in the pile of happy snaps, and confirmed that indeed it was.
Being familiar only with digital SLRs, I had no idea what this camera was. There wasn’t even a cap to protect the vulnerable insides (OMG, the mirror!), but strap was still attached. I put it back down and was distracted again by my son and the purple camera, which he REALLY liked. Curious, I decided to take a closer look. He wanted to know what ‘this’ button was for, and what ‘that’ little slider thing did. And so a conversation began about film. Being just 10 years old he’s only ever seen digital cameras and had never heard of this thing called ‘film’, it was a whole new concept. As I talked, I pressed the shutter button to show him that this was the same as my camera, then showed him that the slider button was moved to wind on the film so that it was ready to take the next picture. As I wound on the pretend film, something scraped inside the camera. When I flipped it over, I saw the back of the roll of film through the window. It looked old. Hills brand. Now my curiousity changed into heart thumping excitement and I grabbed my phone to do a search on the internet.
It turned out that the small camera I was holding was made by Avon in the early 80’s. Here is the article that I found. Apparently there was a little case that went with it also, and I said this out loud. ‘A matching case. You don’t happen to see a small purple and green case, do you?’. My son looked in a different bin and lo and behold found the case, which he held up for me to see. ‘We’re taking it!’ I announced, and turned on my heel to leave, already churning thoughts in my mind as to where I was going to have the film developed and what images it was going to reveal. But then, hesitation as another thought entered my head. What about the SLR?
While the phone was still in my hand I did a quick search on the camera, read the first line of the review (This is Minolta’s best mass market manual focus camera, ever.) and grabbed the camera off the table. It too was coming home with me. Potential damage, if any, could be worried about later. Right?
There was no line at the checkout, and I felt my feet moving faster the closer I got, burning to know what the price was going to be for these two beauties, pleading at the same time that it wasn’t going to be something outragious (like the cowboy boots we found two thrift shops later, which had a hefty $70 price tag, and they weren’t even leather!). ‘How much for the cameras?’ I barely managed to squeak at the lady behind the counter. She turned around and yelled ‘How much for these cameras?’ to another girl and my heart sank a little bit because if another girl is being consulted she must be the expert, right? ‘That depends on what they are,’ she responded. My heart sank a little lower. The woman held up the purple happy snap for her to see. ‘A dollar,’ came the response. My eyes widened. A dollar? OMG! She held up the SLR. ‘I don’t know… a dollar also?’ the girl called. My brain was reeling. Two dollars total for the cameras? I snatched my wallet out of my handbag and presented a $5 bill before anyone could change their mind about the price. Impatiently (but not showing it of course!) I waited for change, then left the store as quickly as I could, almost running to the van with the cameras in my hand.
Later that day came the realisation that I would need to send the 110 format film from the purple Vivitar away to be processed. After looking at all my options I decided to use York. It’s very hard for me to even guess at the age of the film, but I wrote a big note on the form asking for careful handling of the film as it was very old. I could have used the Rescued Film Project , but truthfully, I’m not ready to hand over the film and be given the images back ‘for personal use’ only. What if they turn out to be something really awesome? We’re about to peek into someone’s life and that’s something pretty special if you ask me. Provided anything usable is even on the film. For all I know the camera was loaded back in the early 80’s when it was first purchased and never used again. Who knows? That is all part of this exciting mystery!
Today the film leaves in its little padded envelope. And the wait begins.